Helping a loved one who is experiencing a severe mental illness, especially someone who may not realize they are sick, is one of the greatest gifts you can give. For some, it may mean the difference between life and tragedy. ~ Treatment Advocacy Center
(Jan. 22, 2014) If anyone else needs to be convinced that the United States is failing people with severe mental illness, a riveting new piece takes a close look inside Cook County Jail in Illinois where almost one-third of the inmates suffer from mental illness (“Mentally ill are often locked up in jails that can’t help,” NPR, Jan. 20).
“To walk in and feel like every other person I’m interviewing is mentally ill on any given day, I can’t wrap my brain around it, says Elli Montgomery, deputy director of mental health policy for the jail.
“You see people who are so profoundly ill that you understand this isn’t the place for them,” Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, head of mental health, tells NPR.
Often, inmates cycle in and out of jail because of they lack support and access to medication on the outside.
"Here you have a population clearly identified as mentally ill, and you're releasing them to the street with nothing," says Sheriff Dart, who oversees Cook County Jail. “What do you think is going to happen?”
"I just find the irony so sick that that society finds it OK to put the same people in jails and prisons," Dart continues on the result of deinstitutionalization which he blames for the high number of inmates with mental illness who currently occupy his jail.
These statements highlight the sad fact that there are few places where deinstitutionalization is more evident than in our criminal justice system, where jails and prisons have replaced hospitals as the institutions housing the most psychiatric patients.
By ensuring access to treatment and recovery, individuals with mental illness will be less likely to have such a presence in our correctional systems. At the Treatment Advocacy Center we are working to make that a reality.